A couple of days ago I received a very nice surprise in the mail, a neatly typed letter from a friend and mentor I have not heard from in several years. I have always been blessed to have older friends (older meaning anyone 10 years older than me). I guess that is partly due to the fact that I was only 25 when I first became a college administrator and most of the people I worked with were older. Some of my closest friends are retired now and are taking the time to rekindle relationships that may have gone fallow.
This particular letter made me laugh out loud by reminding of some of the good times we shared. There was the fishing trip where we got caught in a deluge that filled the boat with water and had us bailing frantically to keep it afloat as we headed for shore. Another time we were at a lodge with two other friends. One of the group was a notrious snorer, and in the morning when his roommate came to breakfast with his ears stuffed with cigarette filters and toilet paper we all doubled over in laughter. Another time my boss had taken me fishing and miscalculated the height of the water under a bridge resulting in my having to duck and become trapped in the bottom of the boat while he stepped out on the bridge. I wound up pushing with my legs against the bottom of the bridge and slowly bouncing the boat to the other side. It was all pretty comical. Of course I embellished it in the retelling.
I did not know it but my friend nearly died during heart surgery about three years ago and was in a medically induced coma for two weeks. I am glad he has recoverred and that we were able to reconnect. Now I will make an effort to tell him how much his freindship has meant to me over the years, and how much I learned from him when we worked together.
Real friends are a rarity for me. I have always had a lot of acquaintances and people whose company I enjoy immensely but real friends are another matter. I suppose it is partly an occupational hazard of most university presidents. The job itself is insular in nature and the time it takes to do it does not leave much time for making new friends. In that regard, I feel blessed to have the friends I do. The letter I received this week reminded me of that.